Nearly 30 years after the Lakers left for Los Angeles the NBA returned to Minnesota with an expansion team known as the Timberwolves.
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Minnesota which was home of 2 different ABA teams had also gone 20 years without professional basketball. The T-Wolves made their debut on November 3rd losing to the Seattle Supersonics on the road 106-94. Five days later they would make their home debut at the Metrodome losing to the Chicago Bulls 96-84. Just 2 nights later the Wolves would finally get their first win beating the Philadelphia 76ers at home 125-118 on November 10th. The Timberwolves would go on to finish with a 22-60 record while finishing in 6th place in the Midwestern Division, as Tony Campbell led the team with 23.2 ppg. Playing in the cavernous Metrodome the expansion Timberwolves would draw over 1 million fans including the 3rd largest crowd in NBA history at 49,551 on April 17th that saw the Timberwolves lose to the Denver Nuggets 99-88 in the final home game of the season.
The Timberwolves would begin their season amidst a blizzard as a 1-day record of 24 inches fell as the Wolves lost to the Utah Jazz on opening night 112-97. The snow would be an omen as the T-Wolves won 9 of their first 10 games on the way to finishing dead last with a NBA worse record of 15-67, as no Timberwolves averaged better then 16.8 ppg. After the season the Wolves would come up short again as they lost out an opportunity to select LSU star, Shaquille O'Neal by not getting the top sport in the draft lottery.
Minnesota host All-Star Weekend as Timberwolves rookie Isaiah Rider steals the show winning the Slam Dunk contest with a show-stopping dunk that brought the Target Center to their feet. Rider would have a solid rookie season finishing 2nd on the team in scoring with 16.6 ppg. However, the Timberwolves would continue to struggle finishing in 5th place with a terrible 20-62 record. Following the season the Timberwolves are nearly sold to a group of investors that would have moved the team to New Orleans, despite stellar attendance at the Target Center. However, the NBA Board of Governors vetoed the sale, and new Owner Glen Taylor promised to keep the team in Minneapolis.
A year after signing Kevin Garnett to an unprecedented 6-year $126 million contract, the Timberwolves are used as the poster child if irresponsible spending as the NBA endures a 4-month lockout that wipes out the season. With an already cap heavy payroll the Wolves are forced to let Tom Gugliotta walk away and trade Stephon Marbury fearing both would seek similar deals to Garnett. In the 3-team midseason deal that sent Marbury to the New Jersey Nets the T-Wolves would get Terrell Brandon in return. Despite the instability the Wolves would make the playoffs for the 3rd straight season by finishing in 4th place with a 25-25 record. In the playoffs the Timberwolves would make another quick exit as they are beaten by the San Antonio Spurs in 4 games.
Kevin Garnett has his finest season yet as he finishes 2nd in MVP voting while averaging a solid 23.0 ppg and 13.4 rebounds per game as the Timberwolves finish in 3rd place with a solid 51-31 record. With home court advantage for the first time facing the 3-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. After being blown out at home in Game 1 the Timberwolves had a chance to take a 3-1 series lead as they led heading into the 4th quarter of Game 4 in Los Angeles. However, the Lakers would come back to win the game on the way to winning the series in 6 games, as the Timberwolves were eliminated in the first round for the 7th straight year.
Hoping to end their 7 years of bad luck in the playoffs the Timberwolves strengthened their team by acquiring Latrell Sprewell, Sam Cassell, and Michael Olowokandi. However incorporating the new Wolves into the lineup was difficult at first as the Wolves only managed a 9-8 record through the end of November. In December the Wolves began to gel losing just twice as they became serious contenders for the Midwest Division Title. With Garnett putting up a double-double almost every night the Timberwolves were among the best team's in the NBA all year as KG captured his first MVP by 24.2 points and 13.9 rebounds per game, as the Timberwolves captured the best overall record in the Western Conference with a franchise best 58-24 record. However through success would be measured by their performance in the playoffs. After 7-years of tough playoff opponents the T-Wolves finally had home court in a series and took advantage winning the first 2 games against the Denver Nuggets at home. After dropping Game 3 on the road the Timberwolves took a 3-1 series lead by holding off a last minute run by Nuggets for an 84-82 win. The T-Wolves would finally reach the 2nd round as they would go on to close the series in 5 games with a 102-91 victory. Things would get tougher in the 2nd Round as the Wolves faced the Sacramento Kings a tested playoff team seeking to finally make the Finals. The Timberwolves would look shaky in Game 1 as the Kings won in Minnesota 104-98. After rebounding to take Game 2 the Wolves relied on their MVP to retake control of the series as Kevin Garnett scored 15 points in the 4th Quarter as the Wolves overcame a 10-point deficit beginning the final period to force overtime where Garnett's shot with 10.8 seconds left was the difference in a 114-1113 victory. After losing Game 4 the series returned to Minnesota where the Wolves beat the Kings again 86-74. However after a poor performance in Game 6 the T-Wolves would find themselves facing their first ever 7th game. As fate would happen it fell on Kevin Garnett's 28th birthday. Garnett again and again showed why he was the league's MVP scoring a game high 32 points while 21 boards as the Timberwolves advanced to the Western Conference Finals with a 83-80 victory. In the Western Conference Finals the Timberwolves faced off against the team that once called the Minneapolis home the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers were supposed to win from the start f the season as with 4 sure things Hall of Famers they were the storyline of the entire season. In Game 1 the Lakers drew first blood with a 97-89 victory. After rebounding to take Game 2 the Wolves needed to retake control of the season by winning in Los Angeles. However the Lakers would take both games, leaving the Wolves down 3 games to 1. The Wolves would not go down without a fight as they took Game 5 at home as Garnett scored 30 points for the first time in the series. However in the end the Lakers proved too strong and too playoff tested as they eliminated the Wolves in Game 6 with a 96-90 victory.
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